For some reason, when I read Laini Taylor’s amazing fantasy Blackbringer last year, I kept thinking, “I’ll bet she’d be good at writing something romantic.” I’m not talking Harlequin romance here people, I just mean a seriously romantic story. What can I say? I was right, and I’ve got Lips Touch to prove it.
I’m not generally a reader of short stories, so when I saw that Lips Touch: Three Times was a collection of short stories, my initial response was, “Too bad,” plus shoulder shrug. Well good news folks! The three tales in Laini’s book are each long, long enough to be broken down into chapters, in fact. That is to say, they are pretty substantial short stories, which is all good, because man can Laini Taylor write. Each of the stories is about a kiss. In the first, a girl who has always been an outsider finally gets noticed by the smoldering new guy at school. She fantasizes about kissing him, but she has no idea what the consequence of that kiss will be. In the second story, Ana has lived her whole life burdened by a curse. If she speaks, all who hear her will die. She has kept silent for years but now she is in love and she longs to break her silence to tell her suitor her true feelings. The final story introduces us to a girl who discovers the real reason why her mother never lets them stay in one place for long. She comes from a strange and violent other world, where a brutal and beautiful Queen rules over dreadful soulless creatures. The Queen and the girl are fated to meet. Shivery yet?
Laini Taylor has a wonderfully rich descriptive style, which helps you to imagine the characters, the settings and the worlds she creates to perfection. Here is a passage from the first story that reveals the gorgeousness of the prose:
” Kizzy wanted to be a woman who would dive off the prow of a sailboat into the sea, who would fall back in a tangle of sheets, laughing, and who could dance a tango, lazily stroke a leopard with her bare foot, freeze an enemy’s blood with her eyes, make promises she couldn’t possibly keep, and then shift the world to keep them. She wanted to write memoirs and autograph them at a tiny bookshop in Rome, with a line of admirers snaking down a pink-lit alley. She wanted to make love on a balcony, ruin someone, trade in esoteric knowledge, watch strangers as coolly as a cat. She wanted to be inscrutable, have a drink named after her, a love song written for her, and a handsome adventurer’s small airplane, champagne-christened Kizzy, which would vanish one day in a windstorm in Arabia so that she would have to mount a rescue operation involving camels, and wear and indigo veil against a stinging sand, just like the nomads. Kizzy wanted.”
Um… wow. There are authors who don’t succeed in giving readers as much sense of a character in the space of an entire novel, let alone in a single paragraph. That’s just one example. Another treat? I never saw the endings coming. That could be because Laini is loaded with creativity (definitely), and it could also be because you are always fully immersed in the moment of the story (again, definitely). You can’t put down this book without appreciating that Laini Taylor pays serious attention to crafting her work. It’s impressive and wholly satisfying for the reader. Here’s a writer who cares about details.
To make this even better, I think Lips Touch is going to be one gorgeous book. Aside from that cover, which is creepy/sexy/fantastic, each one of the stories is preceded by pages of illustrations by Jim Di Bartolo, Laini’s husband, another superbly talented individual. At her blog, Laini has already cheered about how beautiful the book will be. I can’t wait to see the final printed version.
Lips Touch is coming in October 2009. You will have to buy it. Absolute proof that Twilight is so not the last word on forbidden love.
Lips Touch: Three Times is published by Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic. Note that material quoted is taken from the ARC and may differ from the bound book.